Medication or Meditation?

It seems as though we are all over-stressed, chronically tired, ever-anxious….and these mental miseries can spill over into physical ailments too. Whether it’s heart trouble, gut disturbances or weight gain, our mental wellbeing and our physical wellbeing are intertwined. And, increasingly often, we end up reaching for medicines to help us out. Anti-depressant use has increased by over 100% in 10 years, more than 1 in 10 of us take sleeping tablets….and blood pressure medication, indigestion remedies and weight loss drugs are being swallowed in bulk.

But could there be an alternative?

Apps such as Headspace and Calm have over 70 million subscribers – proof that we are over-coming the aversion that many of us may have felt in the past to the idea of meditation. Why the change in mind-set?

Scientific studies now abound in the power of mindfulness and meditation to help mental and even physical ailments. Meditation has been shown to reduce blood pressure, perceived stress, weight, depression and improve sleep, wellbeing and perhaps even immune function. And the practice of meditation was once regarded as alternative (and frankly just a bit ‘weird’!). But it’s now being adopted by big, forward-thinking corporates who see the benefits on their employee happiness, productivity and creativity. If these big companies encourage their employees to spend part of their working day in quiet contemplation and relaxation…and paying them whilst they do so….then there must be something valuable in it!

Meditation has been practised for hundreds of years by many different cultures and religions. It needs no special equipment or financial outlay and can be done anywhere. But it can be frustratingly hard to quell the noise of decades of mental frenzy that many of us now regard as normal. So, a bit of help in calming the chaos is worth having. Consider downloading one of the many apps out there (of which Headspace and Calm are just the start) to help you in your meditation training. Remember to practice regularly and make it a habit though – simply having the app on your phone won’t do much!

If you are feeling flush and need extra help, consider the Muse2 – a high-tech headband that can measure your brainwaves and provide real-time feedback on how your meditation attempts are going. When you’re in the zone you may hear birds tweeting. If your mind is distracted and wandering, you’ll hear a rainstorm or other similarly jarring noises, nudging you back to mindfulness and relaxation.

Some studies show that you can reap benefits from as little as 10 minutes of meditation a day. But, once you have learned to switch off from the stresses of the day and manage your mood more effectively, you may well find it addictive.

And, unlike a medication addiction, a meditation addiction could be a life-change for the better!!